What Steps Should I Take Immediately After a Work Injury?
If you’ve been injured at work, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. When you’re injured, it can be challenging to determine what you need to do. There are simple steps to follow immediately after a work injury that can help you get closer to the results you need.
4 First Steps to Follow After a Work Injury
Workers’ compensation is filled with legal jargon that may be unfamiliar to you. Take these four simple steps to obtain the support you need.
1. Give Notice to Your Employer
South Carolina workers’ compensation requires that you immediately give notice to your employer when you are injured at work, or as soon as possible. If you do not give proper notice, you may have difficulty with your workers’ compensation claim later.
Your employer may have a protocol for reporting an injury. When in doubt, talk to your supervisor immediately. They should know what to do to follow the proper process to report the injury–not only through management but also to their workers’ compensation insurer.
You can give notice in many ways, including verbal, written, or form notice. Your employer may require you to fill out an incident report or follow other protocols to ensure they have the necessary information.
In many cases, simply reporting the injury to your employer is all you need to do. If your employer and their insurer agree that you were injured at work, they may go ahead and pay for your treatment and time off work while healing. Other times, the case proceeds further into the workers’ compensation system. Regardless, starting with notice to your employer is essential.
2. Visit a Doctor
If your injury is severe, your employer should immediately provide emergency medical attention. If the injury is not so severe that EMS or other emergency treatment is immediately necessary, your employer should still provide medical evaluation and treatment. If this does not happen, be sure to ask that the employer send you for medical treatment as soon as possible. This is usually in the form of instructions to report to a specific doctor or medical facility. Many work injuries can be evaluated and treated this way, as employers sometimes have access to medical professionals who are knowledgeable about injuries in certain job fields. If medical treatment is offered, be sure to follow instructions and report to the doctor or medical facility. Failure to do so could be considered refusal of medical treatment, which will cause additional difficulties.
Regardless of whether your employer requests that you see a medical professional, it is reasonable to also see your own doctor or a provider at the emergency room, urgent care, or other health facility. Do not wait to see how you feel the next day, next week, or next month. It is important to see a doctor immediately.
Why? Here are a few examples:
- Your Injury May Be Different Than You Think: If you’re not a doctor, you might not know the extent of your injuries. Even if you are a medical professional, injuries can be hidden and only seen with proper medical scans. In addition, your injury may progress, and a doctor needs to evaluate your progress through follow-up appointments after your initial visit.
- You May Need Medical Documentation: Depending on your injury, you may need a doctor to give you work restrictions while you heal. Work restrictions are recommendations from a doctor about the job duties you can and cannot safely perform. You may also need a doctor to approve time off work if you are unable to return to work or need time off for additional medical treatment.
- You Need a Record of Your Injury: While giving notice to your employer records your injury for insurance purposes, it is important to establish a medical record. If your case goes to hearing or is settled, you will need medical evidence to prove that you were injured, the extent of your injuries, and the treatments recommended for healing.
3. Consult with an Attorney
After you give notice to your employer and seek medical attention, you should receive information from your employer (and/or their workers’ compensation insurer) about whether your injury is covered.
Again, in many cases, employers (through their insurance carriers) pay for work-related injuries. In some cases, however, the payments are denied. Or the employer or insurance carrier only approve part of what you may need.
You may also wish to contact an attorney before you know whether the employer and insurer will pay. An attorney can guide you through the process for the best outcome.
If your claim is denied, you should immediately consult with an attorney. Workers’ compensation is a special area of law that requires expertise and experience.
You may be hesitant to talk with an attorney because many other types of attorneys charge large fees. In workers’ compensation, attorneys do not charge injured workers for consultations. Fees are instead contingent on recovery. This means that the attorney will only collect fees if they successfully settle or win your case.
4. Organize Your Medical and Work Files
While working with your attorney, it is important to communicate. This includes full disclosure of your medical and employment information and records. You can start this process by gathering information about your paychecks, hours worked, the amount of time you’ve worked with your employer, and relevant medical information. Your attorney will help you gather additional information, such as certified records that may require signed authorizations. Your attorney will also help you submit all the necessary forms for filing your claim.
Why Consult with an Attorney After a Work Injury?
Aside from emergency care, there is one first step that is more important than all the others: consulting with an attorney. Here are some of the reasons why it is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible:
- Attorneys Know More Than You Do
If you chipped a tooth, would you fix it yourself? Household glue is not enough. This may sound silly because, of course, you would have a dentist fix your tooth. Similarly, you should not try to resolve your work injury without the expertise of an attorney. Workers’ compensation attorneys are practiced in filing forms, requesting medical and other documentation, building the best claim possible, representing injured workers at hearings, drafting settlement agreements, and pursuing appeals when the desired outcome is not reached. Attorneys can never guarantee an outcome, but you are better aligned for success when you work with an attorney.
- Attorneys Adapt Strategies for Each Individual Case
Every workers’ compensation case is different because every injury and every individual worker is different. Gathering the correct information, such as medical records and medical opinions, is very difficult without a strategy. Trust an attorney to build a strategy for your case to obtain maximum results.
- Attorneys Represent Employers and Insurers
If your claims are denied, your employer and their workers’ compensation insurer have access to attorneys and other advocates to represent their interests. While you can represent yourself, you may not be equipped to fully advocate for your needs against these trained professionals. Give yourself a fighting chance with an attorney to represent your interests.
Take Your First Step Today
Whether you were injured just seconds or months ago, you can take your first step toward your best result today. Williams & Kamb has trusted, experienced workers’ compensation attorneys ready to consult with you on your case. Take the burden off your shoulders and see if they are a good fit for your case today.
Ready to take that first step? Start here with Williams & Kamb now.